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Research Topics

ERS and external researchers are actively involved in rigorous research using FoodAPS data to examine food demand relationships that previously could not be investigated in detail because the requisite data did not exist. A list of published research and work in progress follows:

Published research

ERS reports

WIC Households' Food Purchases Using WIC Benefits and Paying Out of Pocket: A Case Study of Cold Cereal Purchasesby Diansheng Dong, Hayden Stewart, Elizabeth Frazão, Andrea Carlson, and Jeffrey Hyman, ERS. WIC households incur no cost for WIC-approved foods, and economic theory suggests that they may be less sensitive to prices when using WIC benefits than when paying out of pocket. ERS examines this assumption in a case study of WIC households' choices in purchasing cold cereals.

Where Do Americans Usually Shop for Food and How Do They Travel To Get There? Initial Findings from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey—by Michele Ver Ploeg, Lisa Mancino, and Jessica E. Todd, ERS. This report compares food shopping patterns of (1) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to nonparticipant households, (2) participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to nonparticipants, and (3) food-insecure to food-secure households.

On March 31, 2015, ERS hosted a webinar: First Findings from USDA's FoodAPS that provided an overview of FoodAPS and this report (see Connect & Explore: First Findings from USDA’s FoodAPS).

Journal articles

"The Effects of Benefit Timing and Income Fungibility on Food Purchasing Decisions among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households"—by Travis Smith, Joshua P. Berning, Xiaosi Yang, Gregory Colson, and Jeffrey H. Dorfman, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 98 (2): 564-80. This article uses FoodAPS data to examine the "SNAP benefit cycle" where SNAP participants have higher consumption shortly after receiving their benefits, followed by lower consumption toward the end of the benefit month. The authors find evidence of two behavioral responses, working in tandem to drive much of the cycle: (1) short-run impatience—a higher preference to consume today, and (2) fungibility of income—the degree of substitutability between a SNAP dollar and a cash dollar. However, the degree of short-run impatience and fungibility of income are found to differ significantly across poverty levels and use of grocery lists to plan food purchases. 

Work in progress

Grants and cooperative agreements


The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with support from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has organized a new two-year research initiative consisting of ten distinct projects that will leverage the FoodAPS data set to address issues related to food security, nutrition, and health in the United States. See NBER Project on the Economics of Food Security, Nutrition, and Health: Insights from FoodAPS.

The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR), in cooperation with ERS, has competitively awarded grants to qualified individuals and institutions to provide rigorous research that utilizes FoodAPS to expand our understanding of household food behaviors and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Research issues of interest include: benefit adequacy, diet quality, cost of a healthy diet, and food security, and the role of the local food environment and other geographic factors. In addition to the FoodAPS data, geographically-linked data on the local food environment and food prices compiled as part of the FoodAPS Geography Component (FoodAPS-GC) are available for awardees. Three grants have been awarded. See University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) Grant Awards: 2016.

In 2014, UKCPR, in cooperation with ERS, awarded 12 research grants to qualified individuals and institutions to utilize FoodAPS data to expand our understanding of household food behaviors and SNAP. For more information about these projects, see Grant Awards: 2014.

NBER Project on the Economics of Food Security, Nutrition, and Health: Insights from FoodAPS

Project: The Effect of SNAP and School Food Programs on Food Spending, Diet Quality, and Food Security: Sensitivity to Program and Income Reporting Error.

Investigator: Robert Moffitt, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics.

Institution: Johns Hopkins University.

Project: The Nature, Consequences and Geographic Variation of Misreporting of SNAP Participation.

Investigators and institutions: Bruce D. Meyer, McCormick Foundation Professor at Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, and Nikolas Mittag, Assistant Professor at Cerge, Charles University, Czech Republic.

Project: Is There an Nth of the Month Effect? The Timing of SNAP Issuance, Food Expenditures, and Grocery Prices.

Investigators and institutions: Jacob S. Goldin, Fellow, Stanford Law School, Tatiana Homonoff, Assistant Professor, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, and Katherine H. Meckel, EPIC Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University.

Project: Is SNAP Like Cash for Recipients and Stores? Evidence from FoodAPS.

Investigators and institutions: Marianne Bitler, Professor of Economics, UC Davis, and Timothy Beatty, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis.

Project: USDA Food Assistance Programs (SNAP, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program) and Healthy Food Choices: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Geographic Variation in Food Prices.

Investigators and institutions: Erin Bronchetti, Associate Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College, Benjamin Hansen, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Oregon, and Garret Christensen, Center for Effective Global Action, UC Berkeley.

Project: The Role of School Meal Programs in the Food Environment Experienced by Children.

Investigators and institutions: David E. Frisvold, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Henry Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, and Joseph Price, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Brigham Young University.

Project: School Lunch and Children’s Food Consumption In and Out of School.

Investigator and institution: Amy Ellen Schwartz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs and Professor of Economics and Public Administration, Maxwell School, Syracuse University and NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy.

Project: Investigating Causal Effects of SNAP and WIC on Food Insecurity Using FoodAPS.

Investigators and institutions: Helen H. Jensen, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University, Brent Kreider, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University, and Oleksandr Zhylyevskyy, Associate Professor of Economics, Iowa State University.

Project: The Economic Geography of WIC.

Investigators and institutions: Di Fang, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, Rodolfo Nayga, Professor and Tyson Chair in Food Policy Economics, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, and Michael Thomsen, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas.

Project: The Impacts of SNAP on Food Insecurity, Obesity, and Food Purchases: Who Misreports and Does it Matter?

Investigators and institutions: Charles J. Courtemanche, Associate Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Rusty Tchernis, Associate Professor of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, and Augustine Denteh, Ph.D. Student, Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) Grant Awards: 2016

Project: Household Responses to Per-Capita Reductions to Food Stamp Benefits: School’s Out and So are School Meals.

Investigators and institutions: Lorenzo Almada, PI, Columbia University, and Ian McCarthy, Consultant, Emory University.

Project: Food acquisition and health outcomes among new SNAP recipients since the Great Recession.

Investigators and institutions: Jay Bhattacharya, PI, Stanford University, and Rita Hamad, Co-PI, Stanford University.

Project: Food Acquisitions, the Thrifty Food Plan, and Benefit Adequacy for SNAP Participants.

Investigators and institutions: Wen You, PI, Virginia Tech University, and George Davis, Co-PI, Virginia Tech University.

Cooperative agreements

The Effect of SNAP on Food Purchases on the Quality and Timing of Household Food Purchases—Timothy Beatty (PI), University of California, Davis, and Charlotte Tuttle, ERS.

Demand for Healthy Food Away from Home (FAFH) by Individuals with Low Food Access—Dave Weatherspoon (PI) and Andrea Marie Leschewski, Michigan State University, and Timothy Park, ERS.

FoodAPS Data Quality and Usability—Edward Jaenicke (PI) and Benjamin Scharadin, Pennsylvania State University, and Jessica Todd, ERS.

Maximizing the SNAP Benefit through Optimizing Food Acquisitions—Mary Zaki (PI), University of Maryland, and Jessica Todd, ERS.

Heterogeneity in SNAP Benefit Redemption: Causes and Characteristics—Travis A. Smith (PI), Jeff Dorfman, Chen Zhen, Pourya Valizadeh, Zhongyuan Liu, Ran Huo, and Wenying Li, University of Georgia.

FoodAPS Geography Study—Parke Wilde, Tufts University, and Craig Gundersen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The Salient Features of the Local Food Retail Environment for Low-Income Americans in FoodAPS—Parke Wilde and Abigail Steiner, Tufts University, and Michele Ver Ploeg, ERS.

Independent external research

Kids' Meal Purchase—Seung Hee Lee-Kwan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Foods Purchased at the Workplace—Stephen Onufrak (PI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Beverage Purchase Price—Sohyun Park (PI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Effects of Food Stamp Benefits on Food Insecurity, Diet Quality, and Other Household Expenditures—Ian McCarthy (PI), Emory University, and Lorenzo Almada, Columbia University.

SNAP, Obesity, and Unmeasured Confounders—Sanjay Basu (PI) and Joseph Rigdon, Stanford University.

Food Assistance and Child Hunger—Allison J. Tracy (PI), Alice Frye, and Amanda Richer, Wellesley Centers for Women, and Duke Storen, Share Our Strength.

The Influence of the Food Environment on Childhood Obesity—Sara Bleich (PI), Kelly Bower, Rachel Johnson Thornton, and Julia Wolfson, Johns Hopkins University.

Examining Relationships between Measures of the Neighborhood Food Environment and Household Shopping and Purchasing Behaviors—Timothy Barnes (PI), Simone French, and David Van Riper, University of Minnesota.

Habit Formation and the Persistent Impact of WIC—David Frisvold (PI) and Emily Leslie, University of Iowa.

Income, Geography, and Nutrition Decisions: An Economic Model—Hunt Allcott (PI), New York University, Rebecca Diamond, Stanford University, and Jean-Pierre Dubèe, University of Chicago.

Assessing the Impact of Food Restrictions under SNAP on Food Choice by Children and Families—Chen Zhen (PI), University of Georgia, Shawn Karns and David Chrest, Research Triangle Institute (RTI), and Biing-Hwan Lin, ERS.

Exploring FoodAPS Data for SNAP and WIC—Sangeetha Malaiyandi (PI), Danielle Berman, Wesley Dean, and Dennis Ranalli, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.

Bringing the Food Environment Home: The Effect of a Systematically Measured Food Environment on Parent Choices and Childhood Obesity—Wen You (PI), Jackie Yenerall, and Jennie Hill, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Biing-Hwan Lin, ERS.

Food Shopping Access Barriers of Residents of Food Desserts: Are They Real and Are They Modified by Rurality, Income, and Food Assistance?—Angela Liese (PI), Bethany Bell, and Xiaonan Ma, University of South Carolina.

Influences on Fruit and Vegetable Acquisition: An Examination of the Community Food Environment, Household Purchase Behaviors, Psychosocial Attributes, and SNAP Status—Bethany Bell (PI), Angela Liese, and Xiaonan Ma, University of South Carolina.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) Review of Food Packages—Helen Jensen (PI), Hocheol Jeon, Iowa State University.

Examining How Consumers Respond to Price Changes in Groceries versus Restaurants: A Natural Experiment from Food Tax Exemption—Yuqing Zhen (PI) and Shaheer Burney, University of Kentucky, and Diansheng Dong, ERS.

Last updated: Thursday, June 09, 2016

For more information contact: John A. Kirlin and Elina Tselepidakis Page